The Consul General Of Japan, San Francisco Counsel, Hiroshi Inomata (center) is pictured with members of the Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL), Las Vegas, who responded to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Inomata honored the group at a reception recently in Las Vegas. The group was cited for their service to Japan and the people of Japan. Federal and contractor staff from the RSL responded and provided radiological data to support the Japanese as they made crucial health and safety decisions to protect their citizens in the wake of Fukishima Diachi nuclear power plant emergency. Also pictured, far left, is Stephen A. Mellington, Manager Nevada Site Office.
Seoul, South Korea: U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu today joined Dr Bernard Bigot, head of French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, Mrs. Joelle Milquet, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Uri Rosenthal from the Netherlands in announcing their common understanding to help minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in the production of medical isotopes.
(Note: This blog post has been cross-posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy)
Every year 30 million people around the world undergo medical diagnostic procedures that use the radioactive isotope technetium-99 metastable (Tc-99m), which is the most commonly used medical radioisotope. The Tc-99m procedures include tests that can tell doctors how well the heart is functioning, whether cancer is present, and other critical medical information. Of the 30 million Tc-99m procedures conducted worldwide every year, over half are performed in the United States.
Tc-99m is derived from molybdenum-99 (Mo-99). Most of the world’s supply of Mo-99 is produced today in nuclear reactors where targets containing highly-enriched uranium (HEU) are irradiated and subsequently processed into pure Mo-99. But HEU is a very dangerous substance and is one of the materials slated to be secured under the President’s four-year lock-down agenda. These dangers were central to the work plan of the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit. Luckily, new technology is allowing Mo-99 to be produced without using HEU, andmost of the world is in the process of converting to non-HEU-based technology.
The United States Government is deeply committed to both a reliable supply of the critical medical radioisotope Mo-99 and eliminating the use of HEU in its production. To balance these two goals, high-level officials of Belgium, France, the Netherlands and the United States announced this week during the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul a commitment to a set of activities designed to concurrently minimize the use of HEU and ensure a reliable supply of medical radioisotopes for patients worldwide. The four countries agreed, subject to regulatory approvals, to support conversion of European Mo-99 production facilities to non-HEU-based processes by 2015. The quadrilateral statement can be found at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/jointquadleu32712, and a fact sheet on the statement is provided at http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/heuminimization.
As announced at the Summit, in the interest to ensure uninterrupted production of Mo-99, the United States is prepared to supply the European isotope producers with limited quantities of HEU target material. To minimize HEU in their countries, Belgium, France, and the Netherlands will eliminate HEU scrap material in their ownership that is no longer suitable for Mo-99 production by recycling or disposing of this scrap material with the support of the United States and other countries.
As part of efforts to minimize HEU use in Mo-99 production, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA, a semiautonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy) works with existing, large-scale international producers to assist in the conversion of their Mo-99 production facilities from the use of HEU targets to low enriched uranium (LEU) targets. These efforts are part of the NNSA Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s mission to minimize and, to the extent possible, eliminate the use of HEU in civilian applications worldwide. The NNSA has also partnered with four U.S. domestic commercial entities to accelerate the establishment of a diverse, reliable supply of non-HEU-based Mo-99 within the United States. The NNSA cooperative agreement partners include Babcock and Wilcox Technical Services Group to develop LEU solution reactor technology; General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy to develop neutron capture technology; NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, LLC. to develop accelerator technology; and the Morgridge Institute for Research to develop accelerator technology with LEU fission. For more on NNSA’s efforts to minimize HEU use in Mo-99 production, see http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/factsheets/factsheet20100125.
A very challenging issue in the current Mo-99 market is below-cost Mo-99 supplies caused by direct foreign government support to the current Mo-99 industry. The prohibitively low cost of Mo-99 undermines the ability of the current international producers to convert from HEU targets to LEU targets, and challenges the ability for new producers to enter the Mo-99 supply chain to replace the aging infrastructure. In order to develop a reliable supply of Mo-99, the market must transition to full cost recovery.
OSTP will continue to work with US Government departments and agencies to ensure a reliable supply of non-HEU-based Mo-99; speed the conversion of existing Mo-99 production processes to those that no longer use HEU; and move the industry to an economically-sustainable model that does not rely on government subsidies to produce the isotope.
John J. Szymanski is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Office of Science and Technology and Parrish Staples is the Director of the Office of European and African Threat Reduction, National Nuclear Security Administration
Sandia National Laboratories is using its Ion Beam Laboratory (IBL) to study how to rapidly evaluate the tougher advanced materials needed to build the next generation of nuclear reactors and extend the lives of current reactors. Recent research was funded by NNSA’s Laboratory Directed Research & Development (LDRD) program.
Reactor operators need advanced cladding materials, which are the alloys that create the outer layer of nuclear fuel rods to keep them separate from the cooling fluid. Better alloys will be less likely to deteriorate from exposure to everything from coolant fluids to radiation damage.
Operating a reactor causes progressive microstructural changes in the alloys used in cladding, and that can hurt the materials’ integrity. However, present-day methods of evaluating materials can take decades.
The LDRD project worked with a variety of samples, everything from high-purity, single-crystal copper to materials used in today’s reactors. The Sandia team found that under the right conditions, a combinatorial approach can be used with new alloy compositions produced in-house. The LDRD project demonstrated a fundamental physics simulation of what’s happening to the material.
To read more about the research see: https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/reactor_materials/
NNSA’s successful removal of all remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU) from Ukraine was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this past Sunday. The completion of the mission was announced by President Obama and President Yanukovych during the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea where world leaders are meeting this week to renew commitments to global nuclear security.
The United States and Sweden announced today at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit the successful removal of plutonium from Sweden. The plutonium shipment was completed by NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) and was the first shipment of plutonium to the United States under this program. Over 3 kilograms of plutonium was removed and included Swedish, UK, and U.S. origin material stemming from former research and development activities in Sweden. In order to complete this project and due to the sensitive nature of the material, NNSA and Sweden needed to develop facilities to stabilize and repackage the plutonium materials.
NNSA today concluded International Radiological Assistance Program Training for Emergency Response (I-RAPTER) in Slovenia.
The training, co-sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency, was provided to 36 nuclear/radiological emergency responders, which included 15 participants from Slovenia and 21 students from 20 other countries.
The training was conducted with involvement of personnel from Sandia National Laboratories, the Remote Sensing Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.
To read more about the training see: http://www.nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/slovenia
The NNSA’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) surpassed a critical milestone in its efforts to meet one of modern science's greatest challenges: achieving fusion ignition and energy gain in a laboratory setting.
NIF's 192 lasers fired in perfect unison, delivering a record 1.875 million joules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to the facility's target chamber center. This historic laser shot involved a shaped pulse of energy 23 billionths of a second long that generated 411 trillion watts (TW) of peak power (1,000 times more than the United States uses at any instant in time).
The ultraviolet energy produced by NIF (after conversion from the original infrared laser pulse to the final ultraviolet light) was 2.03 MJ before passing through diagnostic instruments and other optics on the way to the target chamber. As a result, NIF is now the world's first 2 MJ ultraviolet laser, generating nearly 100 times more energy than any other laser in operation.
To read more about the March 15 record-breaking shot see: https://www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2012/Mar/NR-12-03-02.html
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Operations Support Building (OSB) has achieved certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. The OSB, which houses the new Target Alignment System and Final Optics Damage Inspection System alignment labs as well as optics and material handling labs and offices, is the fifth building at LLNL to be LEED-certified and the first in the National Ignition Facility and Photon Science Directorate.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. It provides third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies for improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, carbon dioxide emissions reduction and other factors. The OSB achieved certification after receiving 21 of 25 submitted rating points.
The research and documentation phase started in March 2009 and was completed over the span of 13 months. Construction began in February 2010, and the certification process began in June 2011 and was completed in December 2011.
To read more see: https://www.llnl.gov/news/aroundthelab/2012/Mar/ATL-031512_leed.html
From February 27 to March 6, 2012, 24 experts from 12 countries participated in an international workshop on nuclear forensics hosted by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. The workshop was sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS).
The workshop provided technical information and a hands-on learning environment for practitioners regarding the measurement of nuclear and other radioactive samples for forensics analysis, consistent with the guidelines in IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 2 “Nuclear Forensics Support.” The event attracted broad international interest; experts attended from Argentina, Brazil, China, Georgia, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. Participants benefited from hands-on exercises as well as presentations by several U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, NIS, the IAEA, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization, the European Union’s Institute for Transuranium Elements, the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment, and others.
Nuclear forensics is the popular term for the scientific characterization and analysis of nuclear or other radiological materials, which can provide critical information on the place of origin and process history of nuclear materials. Just as law enforcement officials analyze human fingerprints after a crime to determine “who did it,” the science of nuclear forensics allows experts to develop a highly accurate “nuclear fingerprint” to trace the origin of nuclear material—a valuable tool for combatting nuclear smuggling and ensuring that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes. Nuclear forensics investigations gather “evidence” by determining the material’s age, isotopic and mass ratios, impurity content, physical parameters, and other characteristics. When illicit nuclear trafficking occurs, experts can use nuclear forensics to pinpoint where the material came from—and then work with responsible officials to ensure the event is not repeated.
International cooperation in nuclear forensics is one of many ways in which NIS is working to implement U.S. commitments made at the Nuclear Security Summit convened by President Obama in April 2010. Progress on nuclear forensics and other efforts to secure nuclear materials will be reviewed at the highest levels at the next Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, on March 26–27, 2012.
High-gain nuclear fusion could be achieved in a preheated cylindrical container immersed in strong magnetic fields, according to a series of computer simulations performed at Sandia National Laboratories.
The simulations show the release of output energy that was, remarkably, many times greater than the energy fed into the container’s liner. The method appears to be 50 times more efficient than using X-rays to drive implosions of targeted materials to create fusion conditions.
Such fusion eventually could produce reliable electricity from seawater, the most plentiful material on earth, rather than from the raw materials used by other methods: uranium, coal, oil, natural gas, sun or wind. In the simulations, the output calculated was 100 times that of a 60 million amperes (MA) input current. The output rose steeply as the current increased: 1,000 times input was achieved from an incoming pulse of 70 MA.